Why does the Ghost reappear to Hamlet in Hamlet?

Quick answer:

The first time ghost appears to Hamlet, he tells him that he was murdered by Claudius and that Hamlet should seek revenge. The second time, he comes to remind Hamlet of his task.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The ghost appears three times in the play—act I, scene I; act I, scenes iv and v; and act III, scene iv—but only twice to Hamlet.

The first time he appears to Hamlet, he confirms that he is Hamlet's father's spirit and says that Hamlet needs to be ready for revenge. There has been a "murder most foul." The ghost says that while everyone was told he was killed by a snake in the orchard, the real snake who killed him "now wears his crown." Claudius poured poison in his ear while he was sleeping. He tells Hamlet that the "royal bed of Denmark" has now become "a couch for luxury and damned incest." Hamlet needs to do something about it. However, he shouldn't harm his mother. Though she is not innocent, he should leave her fate up to God. After a long speech, the ghost disappears.

The second time the ghost appears, Hamlet is talking to his mother Gertrude. The ghost tells Hamlet not to forget to avenge his death. At that moment, Gertrude is shocked that her son is talking to someone that isn't there. Hamlet only shocks her further when he tells her is talking to his father's ghost.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Hamlet, what reason did the Ghost give Hamlet for its second appearance?

The ghost states that he is there "to whet thy almost blunted purpose" (III.iv.111), meaning, to remind Hamlet of what he asked him to do in the first visit: enact revenge on Claudius for killing him.  Hamlet was afraid of that, because the first thing he says when he sees the ghost is "do you not come your tardy son to chide, that...lets go by the important acting of your dread command?" (III.iv.105-7).  Hamlet knows that he is "tardy" in enacting revenge as his father's ghost commands.  He has been busy trying to determine if Claudius did indeed kill him, because he doesn't want to murder someone based on a ghostly image's accusation. 

But even a reminder of the ghost's commission is yet not enough to prompt Hamlet to immediate action; it takes the discovery of Claudius' note to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to finally act, manipulating their murder and returning home ready to rumble.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on